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The post-show talkback sessions at Interplayers Professional Theatre are always worthwhile — but this is the talkback not to miss.
Director Patty Duke will attend the May 29 matinee of "The Miracle Worker" at 2 p.m. and will be there for the after-performance discussion. This means you will be able to hear stories about Helen Keller, Anne Bancroft and Arthur Penn from the woman who was at the center of both the Broadway and Hollywood versions.
As someone who has had the privilege of interviewing her on this subject, I can tell you that she is an exceptionally fine storyteller. She'll give you insight into "The Miracle Worker" that no one else on earth can give.
"The Miracle Worker" had been extended through May 29 due to popular demand. Tickets are $24 available through the Interplayers box office at (509) 455-PLAY or Ticketswest.
"The Miracle Worker" has just been extended a week, through May 29.
I thought I'd post my unedited review of last night's performance, which should appear in Sunday's print edition:
“The Miracle Worker,” Interplayers Professional Theatre, Friday night, continues through May 29, call (509) 455-PLAY for tickets
The capacity crowd at Interplayers on opening night may have been drawn because of Patty Duke, but their thundering applause was for Sarah Denison and Sophia Caruso.
Those are the two talented young actresses who make the characters of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller come to vivid life in this moving production of “The Miracle Worker.”
Duke, of course, had plenty to do with it too. She directed this production, marking one more milestone in her 55-year history with this play. Her direction is not showy, and it never calls attention to itself, but Duke’s lifelong immersion in Keller’s story and William Gibson’s script is evident in many of the performances in this 14-person cast.
It is most evident in Denison’s rock-solid performance as Annie Sullivan. The set of Denison’s jaw and her rigid posture are particularly suited to communicating obstinance, stubbornness and determination, the three absolutely vital characteristics needed to portray the woman known as “Teacher.” However, Denison’s performance reaches deeper and discovers something even more touching: Sullivan’s fear.
Occasionally, and powerfully, Denison lets Sullivan’s mask slip, and with a slight quiver of the lips and a momentary dart of the eyes, shows us that Sullivan is a 20-year-old girl who is, essentially, winging it. She’s been sent to a do a job that she has no idea how to do and she has to improvise. She’s almost sure she’s doing the right thing — but not entirely. I wonder if this is an approach Duke helped Denison develop. In any case, it makes the story even more compelling.
It’s already one of the more compelling stories in American theater. Gibson has done a masterful job of distilling young Helen Keller’s story into its essential elements. Helen, blind and mute, is a wild child, striking out in her rage and frustration (and her own canny sense of entitlement) at everyone who loves her. Annie Sullivan is brought in to tutor and tame her. But to do so, she must not allow herself or the Keller family to indulge in the easiest and least helpful of emotions, pity. She hardens herself and hardens the family and eventually, she gives Helen the key to unlock the world: language.
Caruso is a riveting Helen. She’s 9, but she’s tiny and plays even younger. Yet her Helen is no wispy little creature. She’s a flailing dynamo of anger, thwarted will, calculated outrage and manipulation. The lasting image I’ll have of her is that of a tiny bundle of calico, with fists and feet flashing out in a blur.
Caruso’s face is exceptionally expressive. She glowers into the middle distance with lowered malevolent brows. Her mouth turns up in malicious glee over some outrage she plans to commit. Yet in several crucial scenes, we also see the pain, the frustration and the utter, childlike despair over the fact that she can’t even communicate her despair.
Many of the most powerful scenes arrive in the second act of this three-act play, when Annie moves out to the garden house with the girl. Alone with each other, they fight, they make life hell for each other, and they bond. It helps that these scenes are played far downstage, with the audience surrounding them.
Several key scenes in the first act lost some power because they were played so far upstage, on the floor of Annie’s room, with pieces of scenery intruding on the view.
The rest of Duke’s ensemble cast is polished and professional. Patrick Treadway, as the beleaguered father and Elisha Gunn, as the heartbroken mother, are especially sympathetic even as their love for Helen causes them to do exactly the wrong things.
And the audience response? Well, I’ve attended every Interplayers production for 22 years, and I have never, ever, seen the audience continue applauding long after the actors had left the stage.
Even the actors didn’t quite know what to do. They finally came back out for one more bow when it became clear that otherwise, the audience was never going to leave.
"The Miracle Worker" hasn't even opened yet — it previews tonight (Thursday) and opens Friday — yet it is already setting ticket records for the Interplayers Professional Theatre.
It has sold more first-week tickets than any show in Interplayers history and some performances are sold out. It will likely be extended at least another week, to May 29.
The reason? Patty Duke, of course. She won an Oscar and a Tony for "The Miracle Worker" and now, for the first time, she is directing it. It's making national theater news.
You, too, can take a gander at that Oscar and Emmy. They'll be on display in the theater's Gellhorn Gallery.
For tickets, call (509) 455-PLAY or go to TicketsWest.
I was out of town last week, and got back in time to catch David Mamet's "Race" at Interplayers on Saturday. Here's an advance look at the review, which will run Tuesday or Wednesday in print:
This riveting Interplayers production of David Mamet’s “Race” jams both index fingers down hard on two of the hottest of hot-button issues – racial relations and sex — and doesn’t let up for 90 minutes.
Make that both middle fingers. This being a Mamet play, “Race’s” tone is one of incessant, startling, foul-mouthed cynicism. Ideals of justice, fairness and equality will be brusquely shot down, scorned and dismissed as naïve.
“The whites will screw you,” says the white lawyer Jack to the black lawyer Susan. “Any chance we get. We cannot help ourselves.”
That’s just one of several signature Mamet lines, others of which we can’t print, which all amount to the characteristic Mamet messages: People are out solely for themselves. Money and power always win. The truth belongs to whoever crafts the most cynical lie.
Clicke on "continue reading" to see the rest of the review:
Spokane’s Interplayers Professional Theatre has scored a significant coup: It will stage one of the first productions anywhere of David Mamet’s “Race” since it closed on Broadway in August.
This controversial play, about a white businessman accused of raping a black woman, will run March 31 through April 16, replacing the musical “Cotton Patch Gospel” on the Interplayers calendar. “Cotton Patch Gospel” will return on next season’s list.
The only other production opened Jan. 21 at the Philadelphia Theatre Company. The last time a Spokane theater landed such a new Broadway play would be – well, never, as far as I can recall.
How did Interplayers pull this off? Read on …
As you may have noticed from the review in Sunday's print edition (Jan. 23) , I loved "Opus" at Interplayers. I thought it was a fascinating and well-acted look at the art of creating music.
Actually, I liked it even more than the print review indicated. A large section of the review was lopped off for space, including a discussion of the acting ensemble. They all deserve attention, so I am posting the full uncut review below, with apologies to the actors who were nowhere to be seen in the print review. Click on "continue reading" below to see the full review.
Patty Duke has several goals for her three-day gig at Interplayers, “An Intimate Conversation: Patty Duke,” starting tonight: 1. She wants it to be like a live, local version of “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” with local actor-director Reed McColm playing the James Lipton role of host. 2. She wants to connect, in a neighborly way, with her fellow Inland Northwest residents. 3. And she wants to help Interplayers raise plenty of cash. “We were a little audacious in thinking that an evening with Patty Duke could make some funds for the theater,” she said with a laugh. “I’m hoping it will. “You know, I have loved all of the theaters in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, and I don’t want them to go anywhere”/Jim Kershner, SR. More here.
Question: Have you met Coeur d’Alene resident Patty Duke? Impression?